A Convenient Marriage – the book that took 17 years to get to you

Cover showing brown henna patterned hands, making a heart shape

A Convenient Marriage is published by Hera Books today. This book was about seventeen years in the making. I wrote a Twitter thread on it a few weeks ago, which people seemed to like, so I’ve expanded on it here.

Cover showing brown henna patterned hands, making a heart shape

Every writing career starts with one big idea. My big idea was about an arranged marriage between two people who would never be able to fall in love with each other. I had the idea in my early twenties, when my friends from Sri Lanka were getting married and a friend from Oxford told me a story about a man who was in love with another man, but couldn’t leave his wife because he was scared he’d lose his kids (this was the late 90s).

When I was a grad student, I tried to do a bit of creative writing for fun. Gimhana arrived fully formed in the middle of writing exercise, ice clinking in his whiskey tumbler. Chaya, with her weird tics and alphabetised medicine cabinet, turned up soon after.  

They were two Sri Lankans living in England, who couldn’t fall in love with someone ‘suitable’ and ended up married to each other. The story was of their marriage. Of course, I couldn’t write it then, because I was writing a thesis, but it grew in my head.

In 2002, I handed in my thesis and got a job. Now that I have my evenings back, I took a creative writing evening class. My project was this book. I started a folder on my computer called The Novel… because I thought there would only be one book!

2003 and 2006 I learned my craft writing short stories. They were not GOOD short stories, because they were really slice of life vignettes, but they taught me to write. Later, in another creative writing class, I met two like minded people and we formed a critique group. 2000 words had to be produced two weeks out of every three. Accountability is key. 

The book was written in evenings and weekends. I edited it and sent it to agents (by post!). I got a lot of nice rejections. Just as I was about to give up, I got one that said ‘the writing is good, but I don’t know where I’d sell this’ (Thank you to the late Dorothy Lumley, whose handwritten note kept me going).

2006/7 I found the RNA and joined the New Writer’s Scheme. I sent the book in. I got a three page review back (thanks Sue Moorcroft) telling me I needed to work on structure. She also told me I was trying too hard to write a serious book when I had a comedic voice crying to be let out and suggested I tried writing something for fun. 

I bought books on plot and structure. So many. I wrote a book for fun. I had a blast writing it and the enjoyment shows in the writing. This book was Girl On The Run. It was published under the name Rhoda Baxter in 2012 (it was first published by Uncial Press, as Patently in Love and later by Choc Lit). I wrote ten other books (12, if you count unpublished ones). Every so often, I’d edit book 1.

In 2018, I signed a two book deal with Hera Books. The first book was This Stolen Life, A Convenient Marriage was the second. 

2019, I did a major rewrite. I took lots of scenes out in order to keep the story moving.  It went from being single POV book to dual POV. It was also no longer a romance, but women’s fiction with two love stories in it. I’d never written a gay POV character before, so I found someone to beta read (thank you Liam Livings!). Liam’s notes made Gimhana shine. He suggested giving Gimhana a secret pleasure, which gave me an excuse to write about Jem and the Holograms, yay! 

In the editing stage, Keshini Naidoo’s notes suggested that I put back some of the scenes I’d taken out (it was a super fast edit, because all the extra stuff was already written). Reading it through at proof stage, I still love the characters and story. 

November 2019 – A Convenient Marriage is now out. It has taken nearly 17 years from start to finish. If there’s a lesson in this, it’s ‘never give up on a project you believe in’. 

This is the book of my heart. I hope you like it.

Book review: Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker

Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better WritingTake Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this up because so many people (including my agent!) recommended it to me. I’m a pantser. I genuinely didn’t think I could be a plotter – I’ve tried, I’ve even plotted one book, but I find it really hard. This book gives you a way of outlining a book and reducing the number of dead ends you wander down at the drafting stage.

As I read it, I realised that I already did this when I was thinking about a book. Stuff like working out the character arc, the external goal etc. This gives it a more formal framework. I’m using it in the book I’m plotting right now.

If you’re new to the idea of outlining, this is a great book full of common sense advice.

Buy link UK

Buy link US

A post about themes to do with fathers – Happy Father’s Day!

cartoon sassy woman with city in background

Since it’s Fathers Day, I thought I’d talk about the theme of Girl In Trouble. This book is all about fathers – and their relationships with their daughters. After attending a talk about using theme to unify your story by the fabulous Julie Cohen several years ago (2013?) , I mapped out the main theme of Olivia’s story and then, as Julie suggested, looked at other ways to explore the same theme.

Olivia, the heroine in Girl In Trouble (as you’ve probably guessed) is a grown up tomboy. She has no intention of settling down. She is adamant that while men have their uses, she doesn’t need one to complete her.

When I sat down to think about it, I realised that the reason she behaves like she does is because of her relationship with her father. He left her (and her mother) when Olivia was a teenager. Olivia hasn’t forgiven him.

So I started with Olivia and her father who abandoned her. The hero, Walter,  has a daughter and he’s heart-broken because his ex is moving to America and taking their daughter with her. Walter is a father who is being abandoned.

There’s also the relationship between Olivia and her step father, the guy who was there for her during her teens. Olivia’s biological father comes back and she needs to work out how she feels about him and whether she can forgive him. To complicate matters further, Olivia falls pregnant by accident – to a man who doesn’t want to be a father.

By working out all the different father – daughter relationships, I could make sure that Girl In Trouble held together thematically. I’m quite proud of that.

If you want to read more about it and see if I’ve managed to pull it all together successfully (or even if you just want to see where I’ve screwed up), you can buy Girl In Trouble from all the usual ebook vendors.

How do you know where to end your novel?

Dead End road sign
How do you know if it’s the right ending?

I’m not naturally a plotter, nor am I able to just sit down and magically create. I’m somewhere in between. So I always start off with a plan. It’s usually a proper story, you know, with a beginning a middle and an end and turning points and all that. I know the big stuff that happens. The rest… well, I have to write to find out the rest. Mostly, I write the thing and realise that the story the characters want to tell doesn’t actually fit very well with the plan.

This happens a lot with endings. I’m bad at plotting endings. I know this. I’d love to be able to plan lovely resonant endings that pull together the whole book (like the endings to Nicholas Sparks’ books!), but I can’t. I always plot utilitarian endings that tie things up logically.  I usually reach these endings way before I hit my word target. Then I read them back… and realise that the place where I thought was the ending was going to be isn’t actually the ending at all. The romance I thought was the main story was just the vehicle for the story I was actually telling.

Doctor January originally ended when Hibs chased after Beth and kissed her. He didn’t bump his head on her cycle helmet and she didn’t express her doubts. I read it back and thought ‘huh.This doesn’t work.’ But why not? It’s a romance. The whole point is for the two of them to get together, right?… wrong. I read the whole thing back and realised that the book was actually about Beth standing up to the men who had been bullying her. If she really were to finally realise that the way Gordon and Roger treated her was wrong, then in didn’t make sense for her to just move on and rely on another man to make her feel better. It wasn’t the end at all.

In order for Beth’s story to reach a proper conclusion, she needed more time. She tries to turn Hibs down and Hibs, the man who always gets his women on his terms, has to enter a relationship where the balance of power lies with Beth. This is part of her becoming the new Beth. It ended up being another 20K words before I got to the ‘proper’ ending where both Beth and Hibs had changed.

My next book, Please Release Me, was originally going to end when Peter sees Sally at the Casino. It was a shortish book. When I re-read the first draft I realised that the story wasn’t just about Peter falling out of love with the woman he married (and in love with someone else), but it was also about the friendship between the two women. The real ending to the story was when Grace and Sally made peace with each other. Grace had to move on from being a carer and regain her love for life. Sally had to let go of her need to get even with the world. Again, the ending was several thousand words beyond where I’d planned it to be.

The reason I’m telling you all this is that I’m looking at the ending of my WIP and I’ve started to realise it’s not right. I don’t know what the story is really about yet. Once I figure that out, I’ll be able to work out what the real ending is. Hopefully, it’ll be another 25K along or this book will end up being a very short novel indeed.

How about you? Do you always get the ending right first time? Have you read books where the ending felt ‘wrong’?

Want to write romance? We have a writing workshop for you!

Jane Lovering and I are running a course on writing romance. And it’s in York. Why should people in the south have all the fun?

Writing Romantic Fiction workshop Oct 17 , York

If you’ve always wanted to write romance but didn’t know where to start, or if you’re just a bit stuck in your writing, then this is the course for you. Come along and have a fun day learning about the basics of plot and writing. It’s ideal if you want have a go at NaNoWriMo in November.

Jane and I are both published romance authors with Choc Lit Ltd. Jane won the Romantic Novel of the Year in 2012 with her book Please Don’t Stop the Music and writes a regular column in The Yorkshire Post. We are both mentors for the New Writer’s Scheme run by the Romantic Novelists Association – about half the books I’ve critiqued have gone on to get publishing contracts. We’ve both been through the scheme (as have a lot of romance novelists. Even the totally awesome Katie Fforde!).

The poster for the course is below. If you want more information, just ask in the comments below!
Writing Romantic Fiction
A workshop led by the best-selling novelists
Jane Lovering and Rhoda Baxter

At Miller’s Yard, York
Saturday the 17th of October 2015 (10am – 4pm)
Price: £80*
*Price includes one to one feedback on a piece of your writing.
Book now by contacting either: rhodabaxter@gmail.com  (@rhodabaxter) or janelovering@gmail.com (@janelovering)

Doctor January is released in e-Format!

graphic cover with silhouettes

Doctor Janaury book cover
Doctor January Lab-Lit Romance


I’ve ever so excited today. First there was the news that Doctor January was released as an ebook today – a whole month and a bit before the paperback comes out.

And then the post arrived:

A box of author copies of Doctor January in paperback.
The BEST parcel ever!


Now I feel like a real grown-up author! Woohoo!

I would LOVE it if you could share my good news. Any shares, tweets, G+s, telling your friends etc would be very much appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Right. Now I need to go celebrate with an ice cream sundae.


Having a Ball is going on Tour!

How rock and roll does that sound?

To kick off the tour, I’m chatting to Shaz at Jera’s Jamboree. You can read the interview here.

Jera’s Jamboree : Feature Post Rhoda Baxter.

Completely coincidentally, I’m also chatting to Emma at Writer in a Wheelchair today. I hope I didn’t repeat myself…


Inheritance Books – Sue Moorcroft

Children Reading by Valerie Everett

I’m delighted to welcome Sue Moorcroft to Inheritance Books. I once had a critique from Sue which was probably the most helpful piece of feedback I have ever had. I’ve met her at RNA events since and still regard her with a hint of awe.

Hi Sue, welcome to Inheritance Books.Tell me a bit about yourself. 

Portrait of Sue MoorcroftI’m an English person who was born in Germany and lived in Cyprus and Malta, too, until my parents left the army when I was ten. Since then I’ve lived in Northamptonshire. I like reading, Formula 1 racing, Zumba, yoga and learning the piano.

I write romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes. My last book, Dream a Little Dream has been nominated for a RoNA in the Contemporary Romantic Novel category (very excited) and Love & Freedom won the Best Romantic Read Award 2011. I also write short stories, serials, courses, columns, writing ‘how to’, and I’m a creative writing tutor and Writers’ Forum’s head fiction competition judge. (I like to keep busy.)

Goodness, you’re not kidding when you say you keep busy! Which book have you inherited from your parents/grandparents? Why is it special?

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute is one of first adult books I read, when I was about nine years old. Dad had a copy from a book club, bound in red, which I added to my collection when he died. We’d watched the film together and so I wanted to read the book. It’s based on a true story of a group of women and children prisoners of war who were marched all over Malaya in the Second World War because nobody could find them a camp. A young woman emerged as a leader amongst them, Jean, and when she met an Australian soldier, Joe, outraged by the plight of the group, he stole them some chickens. Unfortunately, he stole the chickens from the Japanese and was crucified for his crime. Believing him dead, Jean returned to England after the war. But when she learned that he had eventually been cut down and nursed back to health, she set off to Australia to find him.

photo(4)Of course, what she found wasn’t what she expected to find and the course of love never did run true, but that’s what great novels are made of.

It’s a sweeping love story in the setting of world events, and it completely gripped me. I still read it every few years.

My dad used to let me have the run of his bookcase but liked to keep an eye on what I chose. He wouldn’t let me read Lolita and I thought it had such a pretty title …

My Dad did the same. He took Anna Karenina off me when I chose to read that. I still haven’t got round to picking it up again.

Which book would you like to leave to future generations? Why?

This is weird – I’m going to choose another Nevil Shute book. This time it’s On the Beach. It’s a story about what might happen in the event of nuclear war. Everything’s out of control and the planet is gradually being consumed by radioactivity. The last pocket of life is in Australia and the book is about how those people spend their last months. (One gets himself a racing car – I support that idea!) The premise is thought through brilliantly. Some characters enjoy what they have, some refuse to believe it’ll happen to them, some crack under the strain. I’d like to leave it to future generations as a warning of what war can bring.

I saw the TV adaptation of A Town Like Alice when I was a teenager and read the book a good ten years after that. I enjoyed both versions. I haven’t read On the Beach, but I shall look out for it. It sounds really good.


Sue’s latest book Dream a Little Dream is published by Choc Lit. Check out Sue’s website at www.suemoorcroft.com and her blog at http://suemoorcroft.wordpress.com/ for news and writing tips. You’re welcome to befriend Sue on Facebook (sue.moorcroft.3) or follow Sue on Twitter (@suemoorcroft).

Why an unpublished author needs an online presence

Do you need an online presence if you’re an unpublished author? Yes. Oh yes. Here’s why.

Social media wordle


4 reasons to start engaging with social media before you’re published:

  1. These days writers have to do their own marketing. An agent/publisher who likes your writing is likely to Google your name, just to see what presence you have online.
  2. You never know who might be listening/reading. If an agent/publisher has heard your name mentioned on social media, they might give your submission a little bit of extra attention.
  3. Readers are hard to find. If you can interact with a particular group as a fellow reader, they will have already hear of you when you make the move from reader to writer.
  4. If you make friends with other writers, you’ll probably pick up tips and bits of useful gossip. At the very least, you’ll see pictures of some nice shoes.

It’s a good idea to have a vague plan. I didn’t have a plan (or a clue?) when I started and I wish I had. My engagement with social media goes something like : Check Email every hour or so, check FB once a day. Sometimes go on Twitter (and inevitably get sucked in by something and waste time). Fail to do any writing. Eat chocolate. Feel fat. This is not a good plan. A better plan would be:

4 step action plan to start out with social media:

  1.  Get a gmail address for all your non personal stuff. (I love Gmail. Google Docs is awesome).
  2. Join one or two forums on Goodreads. Post on there often. Get to know people. Review books that you read.
  3. Set up a website with blog (see here for instructions). You don’t have to update the blog much until you feel you have something to say. You can get your Goodreads reviews to automatically post to the blog so that it gets populated without you having to do much.
  4. Start commenting on other people’s blogs in your genre. If you have to login to post comments, use your website as the login account so that people can track back to your site if they like what you say.

This way you only need to update Goodreads and/or comment on some blogs for a few days and eventually things will add up. 20 minutes each day (or most days), do one thing per day. Only do it at the end of your writing time or you’ll end up wasting all evening. Don’t be scared. You just have to dive in and hope for the best.   Are you terrified of social media? Or have you taken the plunge? How do you do it? Let me know in the comments.